Because of the Fear of Losing You, I Lost You
Many times, it doesn’t take a big mistake to lose or distance ourselves from what we most love and desire. Many times, it is simply the fear of losing what we love or need that causes us to, unwittingly, destroy what we yearn for.
It seems ironic how frequently, after having worked so hard to reach a goal or win the battle against an illness or a couple’s crisis, we succumb. And, although “Runaway Bride” is just a movie, this situation is much more real and up-close than we could ever imagine. In the next few paragraphs we will discuss the biological and physiological reasons for this phenomena. Lastly, we will try to find the answer to how to combat it by cultivating positive emotions where fear currently resides.
What Is Fear?
Fear is one of the six basic emotions we all have: fear, happiness, sadness, anger, disgust and surprise. These emotions are classified as basic because they can be clearly identified in all cultures studied up until now. Also, because they allow us to adapt to the fear all around us.
How does fear help us? All emotions play a crucial role when it comes to pushing us toward or keeping us away from a goal. For example, happiness helps us to connect with others, and at the same time, improves our social adaptation and also our health. On the other hand, the role of fear is to guard us from greater harm or to courageously confront bullying, and that is why it is necessary in our daily lives.
The Fear of Failure: “What if this is too much for me?”
Fear is the result of a negative or threatening evaluation of a situation. Meaning that the danger may not be real. Many times it comes from feeling that our abilities are far inferior to the situation we are facing.
This phenomena is classified as the anticipation of self-efficacy. It is defined as “the perception or valuation you make of your capacity and personal resources needed to face different situations.”
On the other hand, when the fear response is triggered the following physiological reactions are felt which facilitate the three basic motor responses: fight, flight and paralysis:
- Increase in the cardiac rate and blood pressure to provide fuel to our brain.
- Respiration speeds up to oxygenate the muscles to prepare to flee.
- The segregation of carbohydrates and fats in the blood is produced to provide energy in case of a fight.
- Essential bodily processes halt, such as those carried out by the immune system and the digestive system, in order to increase blood flow to the heart and brain.
- The muscles start to tense in preparation for action.
Why Does the Fear of Losing Make us Lose?
It happens when we are faced with a problem, a beneficial or neutral situation that we view as a threat. This is the model followed by phobias and that by which we lose what we love the most.
Therefore, when we evaluate a situation as stressful or threatening, that message goes to our amygdala and triggers the fear response. The amygdala, in turn, is associated with many memory processes, including the storage of our memories, and because of that, our memories of fear stay with us.
On the other hand, evaluating the situation, as threatening or not, depends on our personality and the stimulation of the abilities we depend on; that is why, among other reasons, there are people who love dogs and others who panic when they see one.
“It is madness to hate all roses just because you got scratched with a thorn. To give up on your dreams because one didn’t come true.”
-The Little Prince
This same reaction exists in all situations where we exert ourselves or we feel we have a lot to lose, so that we involve all our tools to either fight or survive. This is our cross to bear. Upon activating our reaction to either fight, flee or become paralyzed we end up escaping from the things that make us happy, just to avoid the failure we have made up in our own mind.
So, it doesn’t just happen in the movies, it can happen to parents, runaway brides or when we argue with a friend before completing a job, when we become paralyzed with fear when speaking in public, no matter how well we know our subject.
How Can We Control Fear of Failure?
Almost all of us have seen this type of romantic movie, where the protagonist let’s “the love of their life” go. Then, all of a sudden, realizes what they lost and runs after them to declare their love but… The plane already took off. And, we are left with the dismay of saying, “Imbecile, you had it all. Why did you let it leave?” So then, why not envision your life as if it were that movie?
Act. Live. In the play of your life, you are the main actor.
Although, in first place, we need to recognize that fear is an essential emotion and, as such, it is good to regulate it and not ignore or deny it. Simply put, it is good to identify it and give it the proper place. Just because you feel sick before an interview does not mean that you are not worthy of the position or that you are a coward. Once we have acknowledged that it is a perfectly normal reaction, we can then clear our mind to have the best interview possible.
1. Combat Irrational Ideas that Promote Fear
Many times, when we are in a situation where fear never fails to take hold of us, our thoughts are transformed into “tangles and mental ineptitudes.” Namely, fear is that “thirst in the desert” that produces enough of a physiological response so that we “see a mirage where there is none.”
In this way, we begin to think things such as “my boss is looking at me wrong. Is he going to fire me?” “Surely they are laughing at me,” etc. It is very possible that our boss had a bad night or has a stomach ache, and that those who are laughing are laughing at a joke.
Stop thinking of yourself as the center of the world. Because, I hate to tell you, you aren’t.
2. Break the Pattern of Failure
If you don’t get on the ride of life, it won’t wait for you. A good idea is to change the pattern of events that made you fail the last time. If you arrived late to an important appointment, give yourself enough time for the unexpected so that you can get there on time. This will break your precedent and you will no longer be able to imagine the failure because there won’t be similar failures in your memory to which to compare the current situation.
“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”
Employ all the tools that make you feel secure. Have faith, believe, believe in yourself and, if you can’t, focus on the obstacle and deal with it instead of worrying. And, last but not least, breathe. This helps to clarify our thoughts and activate the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for “relaxing our organs.” That way, we shoot down stress and fear.
“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”
-Gabriel Garcia Marquez
3. Live in the Moment and See How Everything Gets Better
The only certainty in this chaotic world is that you are the sole master of your time. Thus, before grieving over what you haven’t done due to fear or worrying about what people will say or because it’s too late…think, you are the only one who can decide it is too late.
“Again I felt an immense desire to live when I discovered that the purpose of my life was whatever I wanted it to be.”
Personally, I’ll tell you that neither the people who criticize you nor the ones who you think will do so can give back the years you lose running from your dreams. Therefore, live. Experience everything. And if the end of the world should come, let it find us dancing.
“The future has many names: For the weak, it means the unattainable. For the fearful, it means the unknown. For the courageous, it means opportunity.”